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Australia shares trade flat as weaker commodities weigh

* Lower oil prices hurt Australian energy stocks

* Gold stocks track bullion prices lower

* Santos signals final investment decision on Barossa project soon

March 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded flat on Wednesday, tracking a choppy Wall Street, as a retreat in energy and mining stocks due to weaker commodity prices eclipsed gains among healthcare and tech sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was flat at 6,745.4 by 2327 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.1% lower on Tuesday.

Overnight, all three major U.S. indexes fell between 0.8% and 1.1% after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen defended developing plans for future tax increases to pay for the new public investments.

“I think investors in Australia are still picking through the comments from Janet Yellen and (Federal Reserve Chair) Jerome Powell ... they will take a bit of time to digest,” said James Tao, a market analyst with CommSec.

Nikkei futures were down 0.38%, while S&P 500 E-minis futures dipped 0.03%.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 1.6171%, compared with its U.S. close of 1.638%.

Energy stocks dropped 1.5% as oil prices plunged on new pandemic curbs and slow vaccine rollouts in Europe.

Oil and gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Santos lost 1.6% and 1.8%, respectively.

Santos said on Wednesday it expects to make a final investment decision on its Barossa project in the coming weeks, after postponing the call last year.

Gold stocks were 1% lower as prices of the underlying precious commodity fell against a strengthening dollar that offset a dip in U.S Treasury yields.

Top gold producer Newcrest Mining was down 1.3%, while smaller peer Bellevue Gold lost 2.7%.

Bucking the sombre mood, the Australian health stocks advanced, with medical devices makers Resmed and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp rising 0.7% and 1.1%, respectively.

Tech stocks gained 0.9%, with software maker Xero Ltd rising 2.5%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was also trading flat, as losses in financials offset gains among utility stocks. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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